Takeru Kobayashi at Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

…to Krystal Ball. (Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship)

Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee

My horoscope from Sunday, the day of the Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship:
CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): You’re the kind of adventurer who is willing to sometimes go against the grain in order to experience what only a few people ever do. You’re due for another one of your brave escapades.

Takeru Kobayashi at Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship
(This photo of Takeru Kobayashi is probably one of my favorite photos that I have ever taken)

***

Luckily insanity runs in my family.


On Saturday I had to work the Opening Night Gala and Opera Ball in Chicago from about 4pm to midnight. But the Krystal Square Off hamburger eating contest was on Sunday…in Chattanooga, Tennessee…and a 9.5 hour drive away…and Kobayashi would be eating this year…and it would only be televised on FSN South which no one I know gets… So what’s a girl to do? Why, enlist her dad to pick her up from work and drive through the night of course! (In fairness to me I would never have asked him to do it, he offered!) Yes, my whole family is insane.

So my dad picked me up outside of the Hilton at midnight and drove 600 miles in the dark and fog while I slept in the back seat.

Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

We arrived in Chattanooga around 11am (Eastern), just in time for me to grab a prime front row, center spot for the Major League Eating Krystal eating contest. Way better vantage point than for Nathan’s! No Thunder Sticks in the way of my pics this time! (just photographers and videographers and judges…but that’s to be expected.)

The Marshall Tucker Band performs at Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

The Marshall Tucker Band kept the crowd entertained (in fact, I think there were a few people who came just to see them and left afterwards) and free Krystal hamburger were given out to curb my hunger. I got to meet Jamie and Sadie (The HungrySisters) who coincidentally sat right behind me. Actually probably not too coincidentally as they also surely wanted to be as far front and center as possible! But after reading each others’ blogs, we finally got to meet! Sadie was even there to be a Bunnette for the day and got to hold up the counter card for competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi!

Sadie as a bunnette at Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

Soon enough the contestants arrived to Ross’s Landing on their boat and one by one were introduced to the cheering crowd. After they signed a few autographs they were whisked away and the show was about to begin!

Hall Hunt eats at Krystal Square Off V hamburger eating contest in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

First up was the amateur Krystal hamburger eating contest: teams of two took the stage to try to eat 12 Krystal burgers in the shortest amount of time. Ben and Brittany Griffith won the contest by eating 12 burgers the fastest…actually I think HE alone ate about 11 and a half or so of them in 12 minutes…

Krystal Square Off V hamburger eating contest in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

Badlands Booker came out and performed a few of his awesome songs and then, again, the contestants were all introduced by MC George Shea, this time taking the stage for the broadcast.

Badlands Booker performs at the Krystal Square Off V hamburger eating contest in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Tim Eater X Janus at the Krystal Square Off V hamburger eating contest in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Cups were set up, filled with water or Kool-Aid or whatever liquid an eater decided they wanted to work with and to dunk their buns in. Patrick Bertoletti, my favorite eater (he’s a Chicagoan, I’m biased), always uses red juice of some sort that dyes his hands blood red as he eats.

Pat Bertoletti at the Krystal Square Off V hamburger eating contest in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

It was Kobayashi vs Chestnut as the two best competitive eaters in the world, Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut, took center spots. Chestnut won last year, breaking the 100 barrier and shattering the Krystal eating record, by eating 103. Kobayashi was the previous champion but a jaw injury that year had kept him away. The same jaw injury was blamed for his loss earlier in the year to Chestnut in hot dogs when Chestnut beat him for the first time. Since then he has lost to both Pat and Joey in chicken wings and to six others when he cut out of a turkey-eating contest mid bite due to the recurring injury. From that first time Chestnut did the unthinkable by taking Kobayashi down it seems like every contest is marked by the question, will this be Kobayashi’s comeback? Just a week earlier he ate 89 Krystals, a record number amongst qualifiers.

Takeru Kobayashi at Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

To top that off, last year, Humble Bob Shoudt edged out Pat Bertoletti securing a second-place victory. This year, it could be anybody’s game.

Humble Bob Shoudt at Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

The countdown counted down and the clock started and mushed meat and bread made its way from box to mouth to stomach. It was hard to keep track of who was winning. Pat and Joey and Koby and Tim and Bob were all eating strong. Each one seeming to edge out or be close to edging out the competition. Slowly but surely Joey’s rate increased and he took a lead, Pat and Kobayashi were close behind though and while it was clear who won when the clock went from one second to zero, second place wasn’t so clear.

Joey Chestnut at Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

Behind Kobayashi the counter board displayed 86. Behind Joey 94. And behind Pat 86. Judges conferred, debris was examined, deductions were applied and everyone waited patiently for the results to be announced. And MC George Shea took the stage to announce the results.


Takeru Kobayashi and Patrick Bertoletti await results at Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

In third place: Takeru Kobayashi with 84 Krystals.

In second place: Patrick Bertoletti with 85 Krystals.

And in first place: Joey Chestnut with 93 Krystals.

Joey Chestnut wins the Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

***

After the Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship ended I hung around a bit. I FINALLY met Humble Bob, who last year after Krystals posted some of my pics to his website along with a request to meet me some day. I said hi to Pat, and while I was leaving he stopped me and gave me his Krystal counter board! And I finally got to meet Kobayashi!

Me and Bob Shoudt at the Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

Me and Pat Bertoletti at the Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

Me and Takeru Kobayashi competitive eater at the Krystal Square Off V in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship

And then my dad and I headed back to the car for another 9.5 hour drive back to Chicago. In all we ended up driving about 20 hours in 26 hours. Some people may call this stupidity. I choose to call it dedication.

More Photos from the Krystal World Hamburger Eating Championship, Krystal Square Off V:

 

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Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

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4 Comments
  • Sid
    October 1, 2008at8:51 am

    why aren’t they paying you for pictures yet? get on that.

  • Steakbellie
    October 1, 2008at12:15 pm

    GREAT photos!
    I like your cropping in many of them.
    I was so sad to not get FSNS in the NorthEast, but I can pretty much read the story through your photos.
    Thanks!

  • Kevin Ross
    October 1, 2008at11:35 am

    That is a really fantastic pic of Kobayashi at the top!

  • Sadie
    October 1, 2008at3:49 pm

    Dude the IFOCE should totally hire you as their offical photographer!

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